Tweeting Sports Takes Practice

You’ve made it big time — you’re tweeting from the sidelines, or from the press box, and it feels great. Getting there and making it happen is half the battle. But now that you’ve figured out how to tweet live sports coverage, take the next step. Your tweets should be as professional, complete and consistent as everything else from your media organization.

It’s not enough just to bring the mobile device you plan to use for tweeting. Add these three things to your back pocket:
1. Team roster: Player names with correct spelling, jersey number and pertinent data like position, height, weight. You can get this from the athletic director, on school/team website or on sites like Max Preps. Get the opposing team’s roster, too, if possible.

2. Small reporter’s notebook: It’s often easier to compose on paper first so you have one small step of proofreading or opportunity for revision, especially if the device you’re using to tweet has some type of autofill or automatic “smart” texting, which is complicated enough. If things start to happen quickly, take notes as you normally would and tweet in a minute when you’re ready. [Remember, folks following along aren’t at the game, so they won’t notice minor delays because they can’t see the action unfold.]

3. AP Stylebook: If you can’t spring for the app to have AP Style at your fingertips, bring a stylebook or “cheat sheet” — or enter some important info into the Notes feature on your phone.

A few pointers to guide you through the reporting process:
1. You’re still doing journalism. Do what you always do, just do it in 140-character increments. In other words, all rules still apply. Show, don’t tell. You’re not the cheerleader here. Be an observer, not a participant. And stay away from exclamation points.

2. Correct mistakes. You might mistweet. You might not be able to delete from the device you’re using, but you can send a follow-up tweet. Try this method:

Original tweet: Hunter scores again, making that 24 points tonight.

After about a minute, you realize Hunter has actually scored 28 points, so you tweet again.

Next tweet: *Correction: 28 points tonight for Hunter.

Sometimes people prefer to retweet themselves with a correction added or within asterisks, but you might not be able to fit the retweet and correction within your character limit, so a standalone correction is safer and much more clear. As long as you set a style and do it consistently, you’re in good shape.

3. Report scores the same way you would in a full-length story. Use figures exclusively, using a hyphen (Wildcats lead 7-0). In rare instances, use commas to list both teams for effect (Whitney 32, Rocklin 14). Remember, write tight.

4. When in doubt, “no hyphen” is a good guess in terms of AP Style.
Examples: halftime, halfback, linebacker, lineman, tailback, touchdown

5. Know key positions and their abbreviations. Check this cheat sheet for starters.

And, of course, the best things you can do to improve are to practice and reflect after the experience. Critique and discuss your Twitter feed in class the same way you do with everything else. You’re on your way to winning big.

Media Now Summer Journalism Workshops Drake University and Webster University